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Authentic Recipes from China

Singapore : Periplus Editions 2004, $12.95, Paperback
ISBN: 0-7946-0208-8

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2005 Issue: 12(3) page(s): 22

Recipes by Kenneth Law, Lee Cheng Meng, and Max Zhang, an introduction by Don J. Cohn, and photographs by Luca Invernizzi Tettoni combine to make this a veritable bargain. One in an 'Authentic Recipes' series, it does the Middle Kingdom justice.

There is much to learn in its many chapters about food In China. There is a section titled: All The Tea In China, another about The Emperor's Banquet, one about Cooking and Eating Chinese, and finally, one titled: Authentic Chinese Ingredients. The photographs are gorgeous, the information valuable, the recipes worth making; and there is more.

The recipes begin, each with its own page of planning tips. The sauces and dips and the pickle recipes are special. Many recipes are titled in English and Chinese, some only in English; and many have pictures begging the reader to make and consume them. The few we made were worth so doing.

Ma Po Tofu was great, nay special. It included black beans, ginger, grated ginger, Sichuan pickles, chili paste, and Sichuan peppercorns or sansho pepper. That fine fiery fantastic dish offers a note that begins: For a vegetarian version... Never mind that suggested recipe idea, just adjust this one because it falls short of its mark. The sauce is not the same. The swap of fresh shiitake/ dried black Chinese mushrooms for the ground pork, in our mind, panders to sell books. Other vegetarian recipes in this volume make better vegetarian fare such as the Tofu Stuffed Vegetables. It was extremely good. The Fresh Spring Rolls are a clever combo idea; inside the recommended rice flour wrapper one puts a lettuce leaf. Made that way, the texture is terrific, better than with shredded lettuce as the original recipe advises.

The Winter Melon Soup requires time but it is well worth it. It is a pretty presentation, and it pleases the palate. Stir-fried Noodles with Shrimp and Pork were a wonderful Fujianese find and a filling part of any dinner. Pair them with the Crunchy and Tangy Fresh Lotus Root Salad and delight in a delicious and phenomenal meal.

Almost every recipe has a picture of its own completed dish. Most are but three steps to completion, and when done they look lovely and taste even better. This book is more than basic, it offers quite a few new twists to old favorites. Do not know what this author or any author means by 'authentic;' but can attest that many of the recipes are worth trying and tasting.
Crunchy and Tangy Fresh Lotus Root Salad
1 Tablespoon oil
2 fresh lotus roots, washed, peeled and sliced crosswise
2 scallions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice vinegar
1. Heat wok or fry pan and add the oil, then the lotus root slices, scallions, salt and half of the sugar, and continue to stir-fry for three minutes. Then add half-cup of water and reduce heat, and cover the wok or pan and cook for five minutes. Then remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon to a serving dish.
2. Drizzle with the vinegar and sprinkle the remaining sugar on top, and serve hot or cold.

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